Happy Independence Day! I hope you’ve gotten to spend some time with family and friends over the long weekend. America surely has its problems and we dwell and fight over them ad nauseum, but let us not forget how fortunate we are to be born here.
One thing I’m thankful for is that we’re under three months away from Clemson football. There’s a lot of change going on in the sport, much of which I think is very harmful for the game, but for at least 2022 we are going to get a fairly normal-looking season where we play key rivals and try to get back on top of the ACC.
Clemson’s 2022 schedule starts off in the beautiful Mercedes-Benz Stadium against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are going to be bad. For a time I hoped they’d be decent under Geoff Collins to help the ACC and make the Clemson-GT rivalry more fun, but I’ve changed my tune. As an Atlantan myself, the whole Geoff Collins/ATL schtick is incredibly annoying. Last year, Georgia Tech trailed 7-3 at halftime. The fact that they were even close was surprising, so when Coach Collins was interviewed at halftime and asked what their halftime was going to be like, he said they’d have the music “turnt up” and then ran off to celebrate. Clemson really needs to “flash” offensively in game one. Even though the opponent isn’t good, the rivalry, venue, and need to show offensive progress make this game very intriguing.
The Tigers host Furman and Louisiana Tech next before an interesting back-to-back against Wake Forest and NC State. Most project Clemson and those two teams to be the main competitors for the Atlantic division. Clemson tends to dominate Wake Forest, but it is on the road which adds some intrigue. NC State beat Clemson last year and we heard about it all year long. NC State is the trendy pick to win the ACC this year, but I still don’t believe in them — especially in Death Valley. I could see a close and exciting showdown. I could also see a repeat of 2018 when NC State was 5-0, highly ranked, and expected to give Clemson a real battle in Death Valley only to lose 41-7. That would be fun.
If Clemson is 5-0 with wins over the top two competitors in the Atlantic division, they’ll be in control and we can start thinking about returning to the college football playoff. The next three games are a bit softer with road trips to Boston College and Florida State and a home game against Syracuse. Florida State could take a step forward, but it is hard to project. The Tigers will likely be heavy favorites in these three contests.
The Tigers enjoy an open date before the gauntlet of the schedule in November. The Tigers go to South Bend to play Notre Dame and then host Louisville, Miami, and South Carolina to close the season. These teams admittedly have the potential to be busts, but each also has a high ceiling in 2022. It could be four ranked opponents in a row!
If Clemson’s offense isn’t much better than last year and if they’re not healthy coming out of the open date, this is where the season could really fall apart. There’s a really good chance Clemson is 8-0 going into this stretch, but winning these last four may be tougher than winning the first eight. If Clemson is looking like a playoff contender and some of these teams on the back-end of the schedule pan out to be good, it will make for an exciting November.
Overall, this should be a fun schedule. and with the ACC nixing divisions, we’ll have even more interesting schedules in the years to come. Unfortunately, it looks like another round of re-alignment may blow all of that up.
With the Pac-12 nearing collapse after losing USC and UCLA to the Big Ten, there seem to be a few moves on the verge of happening.
The first would seem to be the Big 12 poaching the flailing carcass of the Pac-12. Colorado and Utah would be strong additions that add to the conference in several ways. Colorado brings back some tradition and is geographically logical. Utah is a strong program that would have exciting Big 12 rivalry games with BYU. Arizona and Arizona State make sense geographically if they want to expand further West from there, but I’m not sure they add enough from a brand or performance standpoint.
After that, I think we all wait and see what Oregon, Washington, Notre Dame, Clemson, and Florida State do. Those will be the four most notable programs remaining outside of the SEC or Big Ten. I can see a couple of different alternatives:
Notre Dame holds the ACC together
Ideally, the ACC could add Notre Dame and — if they add enough TV value — West Virginia to boost their TV deal. If they can bump those TV dollars up, perhaps the conference can hold strong.
Unite around the Big 12
Alternatively, perhaps the Big 12 can play hero. The Big 12 could absorb the majority of the Pac-12 and ACC while dumping the weakest links. That would allow the conferences to vote away their contractual problems. That would likely mean taking seven Pac-12 schools (excludes Washington State, Oregon State, and Cal) and 10 ACC schools (excludes Wake Forest, Duke, Boston College, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Virginia). Without those smaller programs depressing the numbers, this new 27-team super conference would have incredible depth, and perhaps could have staying power. The key here is that they aren’t just merging but are also casting off their weakest programs in the process. Here’s how it would look (former conference in parentheses; loosely ordered by attractiveness of program).
- Clemson (ACC)
- Oregon (Pac-12)
- Florida State (ACC)
- Miami (ACC)
- Utah (Pac-12)
- Louisville (ACC)
- Washington (Pac-12)
- Virginia Tech (ACC)
- Oklahoma State
- North Carolina (ACC)
- West Virginia
- NC State (ACC)
- Stanford (Pac-12)
- Iowa State
- Colorado (Pac-12)
- Georgia Tech (ACC)
- Kansas State
- Texas Tech
- Arizona State (Pac-12)
- Arizona (Pac-12)
Clemson to the SEC
Clemson joining the SEC would create a ton of exciting matchups. There’s no doubt the path would be dramatically harder with Georgia, Alabama, and Oklahoma all in the conference, but matchups would make sense regionally and have a lot of excitement around them. Clemson fans would still be able to travel to road games and they’d get to see great campuses across the Southeast. Ideally, Clemson would not be a one-off here. If they could join alongside Florida State and some combination of Miami, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, NC State, and Virginia Tech then they’ll retain some old rivalries and games in crucial recruiting areas.
Clemson to the Big Ten
I have two major worries for Clemson regarding realignment. One is that the ACC is left behind. If the SEC/Big Ten create their own playoff, it would essentially demote other conferences to a lower tier of the sport in the same way that the Power 5 and Group of Five are today. They may even have a separate champion in the same respect that the FCS has a separate champion from FBS football.
The other worry is that Clemson joins the Big Ten. If the Big Ten scoops up half of the ACC then it would work out just fine, but if they pick out a pair of southern teams (Clemson/FSU) in the same way they did west coast teams (USC/UCLA) then the sport immediately becomes a lot less interesting for Clemson fans. The Big Ten plays nine conference games so even if one of them is Florida State, the other eight will be against teams north of the Mason-Dixon line. I just don’t have a ton of interest in Clemson vs. Indiana regular season games.
When Nebraska switched from the Big 12 to the Big Ten, they stopped playing in Texas and lost their recruiting prowess there. The same could happen with Clemson in Georgia and North Carolina where they currently have five conference mates. Even though the SEC is tougher, I think Clemson would be more successful there. Money doesn’t always buy success and if Clemson goes to the Big Ten without a large ACC contingent I could see it hurting both their performance and fan interest in a major way. Fortunately, I think this is a fairly remote possibility.
Lastly, make your voice heard in our poll below. What do you think will happen over the next few years and where do you think Clemson ends up playing for the 2026 football season (the first one after the current four-team playoff system).
What conference will Clemson play in for the 2026 football season?
This poll is closed